I had a bit of a surprise this week.
You folks remember how I’ve been writing about the stabbing bladder pain that showed up last summer? How this came on the tail end of a two-year struggle with weight loss, and my theory that it was about hormones, cortisol fatigue, insulin resistance, maybe estrogen dominance?
Here’s the latest.
My nutritionist has just had a new baby, but she’s still happy to work with me for the sake of continuity, and she herself has used diet to correct an estrogen imbalance that had been causing her own weight to stick on and never, ever seem to budge. Over the past month I’ve quit coffee – that’s HUGE for me, given I used to *love* coffee so much and that Sweetie and I have owned a coffee roaster. Never again. This, more than any other single thing (though all the other things have had a cumulative effect) has made me feel better. Even if it’s just that I am not on a clock when I wake up anymore. I don’t *have to* have coffee anymore.
Instead, I’m a convert to matcha green tea. I like to make mint tea, and then whisk in some matcha with a tea ball, and then add some almond milk. It works great with lavender tea too. I don’t drink black tea either. This is on the recommendation of my nutritionist, and my naturopathic doctor. Basically cut out dairy, wheat, sugar, anything processed, any coffee / black tea. My food has been a lot of recipes from “Vegan Under Pressure”, and I’m gradually shifting into an 8 week meal plan masterpiece my nutritionist has compiled for me, complete with recipes.
Oh, and I’m not really eating chicken anymore. Maybe once a month, only if it’s organic. No beef, no pork. Basically, I am a pain in the butt to have at dinner parties.
I will be eating fish for sure.
I’m not sure if I’m losing any weight yet, but I have felt a shift in my body. I think, nutritionally, I’m finally on the right track… at least for now.
Anyway, the surprise came a couple of days ago, when I saw a new doctor, a pelvic pain specialist in Vancouver.
Holy crow, you guys. It was really great. Stressful, pretty painful, but great.
Women, you especially know what it’s like to talk to your doctor about period / pelvic pain and be given birth control or other meds that don’t work. That’s the story of 1 in 10 women. I actually think that ratio is higher, and that women power through or stay silent about pelvic pain, and simply stop going to doctors after years of not getting help. Because I am a talker, and I tell pretty much anyone who asks me how I am (assuming we’re friends) what I’ve been going through, pain and weight wise, many women take this as permission to share their stories with me.
In my estimation, I’d say chronic pelvic pain affects at least one in three women. I think the problem is that “menstrual pain” is considered to be normal. It’s normal if, after exercising, you feel better. Sure, then that’s a great way to cope. It’s not normal if you can’t walk, have to miss work, throw up, pass out. *So many women* have opened up about years or decades of doctor’s appointments and frustrations. Doctor’s office options are pretty limited. Birth control. Mirena IUD. GNRH antoganists, with synthetic hormones added back.
I recently heard about endometrial ablation, and was interested in pursuing that, but then the bladder pain showed up. That became my new priority. I thought it was somehow related to the hormones, but I didn’t understand how. I was cautiously optimistic about this new doc, because she’s one of the best in the province and country.
That’s why I feel so freaking lucky, you guys. Through luck, because of my specific symptoms, I managed to get in front of this wonderful pelvic pain specialist in very short time. And what’s so beautiful about this clinic’s approach is it’s “patient-centered care”, meaning, they don’t follow a generic check list of protocols for all patients. They talk to you, and find out what you want. They don’t *make you* go through all the medical protocols in a specific order. They look at what you want and need in life, what your care goals are.
After laying out my options, I was shocked when she said a total laparoscopic hysterectomy was my best bet at eliminating my pain. My bladder appears healthy, and my new doc has seen this before – the stabbing bladder pain is likely *referred pain*. Nerve sensitivity after 20+ years of painful menstruation. That’s what ignoring menstrual pain for decades got me. That’s also a testament to how powerful mindfulness, meditation, and lifestyle modification can be. You can get pretty far, living with chronic pain, when you have to.
I’ll get to keep my ovaries, so I won’t go into menopause right away, but yeah. I’m getting spayed!
It’s a major surgery with a six week recovery, and Sweetie still has a broken foot. The summer is the busiest time of year out here in Tofino, so I will ask for the surgery to be done in the fall or later. Many thanks to my facebook friend who recommended this site: http://www.hystersisters.com/ SO MUCH useful information and reassuring stories.
I will continue with my diet and naturopathic healing protocols indefinitely. We’re talking life-long commitment here. The surgery does not eliminate the importance of following a diet that is going to ease healing and help prevent future problems. This diet, and hopefully some weight loss, will set me up to bounce back really well from the surgery, and even though my uterus will be gone, my ovaries and the rest of my body will still need the good nutrition of an anti-inflammatory, estrogen balancing diet. This diet, my mindfulness / meditation practice, and my work on using gentle movement and positive attitude to cope with chronic pain are *all* recommended by my new pelvic pain doc. If I hadn’t already been doing them, she would have been recommending it. The gentle movement piece in particular will be essential to restoring a healthy nerve response in my bladder, after monthly inflammatory cycle has been eliminated. It’ll take some gentle coaxing to get my nervous system to realize that certain movements don’t *need* to hurt anymore. I’m not expecting a quick fix, but my friends, I am *so very happy* about this coming surgery.
It all comes full circle.
Sweetie is feeling a lot better since her foot has been put in a cast. She’s mastered showering with a bag on her leg, and she’s knit an enormous sock to cover the plaster. It’s really pretty cute.
So that’s the latest news, my friends. I hope this is somehow helpful to my blog friends – according to my statistics, 75% of my readers are women. At minimum, one in ten of you will have been through something like this, and I’m betting it’s more like one in three. I think this is a part of the negative effects of the silence created by menstrual pain not being considered polite conversation. I have had broken bones and pinched nerves hurt less than my regular monthly period. Yet while at work, out in the world, I’ve had to pretend like things are normal. I breathe through it, or maybe I stay in bed for a day or two. I just lived through it.
How many women at any one time are pretending to feel normal?
It’s not just period pain, either. It’s all women’s health stuff. We don’t usually talk about pregnancy loss openly, the way we’d talk about the death of a known family member. Women feel different ways about the loss of a pregnancy. Men too, of course. Women often don’t talk about struggles to conceive, or maybe they’re grieving their fertility because they have to get a hysterectomy. (I certainly won’t be grieving my fertility.)
Times are changing though, and I’m glad of that, because creating a space for women to talk about what we experience with our human female bodies is a part of our healing. Witnessing and acknowledging pain helps to carry it. So much of our pain experience is all the crap that surrounds the physical pain. A lot of that pain is just, the silence.
Our bodies are so fragile, and prone to error.
I remember a beautiful dog in a session said to his mum, when she asked why he was meant to die at such a young age. He said, “I wasn’t, my body was born broken. It kept getting sick. I left my body because it was going to just keep getting sick. Let’s try again.” (I’m paraphrasing from memory.)
I wish, sometimes, that it were as easy with people. Many of our animal friends will not live long enough. But so many of them get to come back to us, in new bodies. Maybe in your family, you may get to see or wonder if your cousin’s child is a grandparent or great-grandparent reborn. In rare cases, siblings who died accidentally can be reborn at late-in-life miracle babies, or as the child of one of the siblings left behind.
Bodies are prone to error, and so are our lives. That’s why we need spirit guides, or guardian angels. It’s hard being alive. There aren’t many guarantees.
I don’t personally feel like I *signed up* for this pain experience. I can certainly find meaning it in now, in that requires me to allow and welcome help from my dearest friends and Sweetie. But honestly folks, this is a genetic thing. This problem just runs in my family. It’s like the vehicle I leased for this life has a few foibles, and I said “OK, I can deal” and hopped right in. I’m not one to tell others that their pain and suffering is a part of a plan, that they elected to experience before birth. I don’t find that idea helpful to me personally when I’m in pain, so I don’t pass that along to others.
But what I do believe is that we have to know we’re going to wade through some unexpected and necessary pain and suffering. That’s just mortality. Maybe that’s my inner Buddhist speaking. I think we can *make* it meaningful, and purposeful, by moving with it, by trying to grow with it, and by trying to help others along the way.
That’s how I’m approaching all of this, and really, that’s my life’s motto right there. Just try to help each other along the way.
Love you guys!